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Sharing - Scanning Electron Microscopy

ADEM is all about sharing partner’s expertise and unique equipment for optimal results. Each newsletter highlight an ADEM facility. This month we present a non-identical twin...the SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) facility, an almost unique assembly. Director Jaco Saurwalt welcomes researchers who wish to use the equipment at ECN.

Jaco Saurwalt, Director Environment & Energy Engineering of ECN: “Most of our equipment is expensive in purchase as well as maintenance. It takes time to explore the possibilities of the equipment and even more time to interpret the findings in a right way. All good reasons to share the facilities and knowledge.” ECN works with a professional staff of experts to support the researchers and improve the results. This way each new experiment contributes to a growing knowledge, not only of the studied materials but also of the facility. For ADEM PhD-students the program covers total costs of facility use. For ADEM partners the investment costs are covered by the program, the costs of facilities are reduced to operational costs only.

A powerful couple

Erik Schuring - Project leader materials engineering-IWE glows like a teacher praising a great student, when he points out the multiple practical uses of the specific characteristics of the two SEMs (Scanning Electron Microscope), FEG-SEM and VP-SEM: “These SEMs are a versatile couple that enables you to study local chemical and structural composition from millimetres down to sub-nanometre scale, depending on SEM conditions and material. Sample size may vary, depending on the SEM, up to 200mm in diameter and 500mm in height. The basics are the same, they scan the sample with an electron beam and allow studies of the collected electrons from the sample with magnification up to 1.000.000 times. Also X-rays emerging from the scanned material, which contain information about the chemical composition can be analysed. But each SEM has its own characteristics and advantages.”

The Shottky-FEG (Field Emission Gun) SEM (Hitachi SU70) provides higher resolution imaging, a very sensitive and precise element and microstructural analysis. Combined with an Ion Milling tool thin layers in the nanometre range, can be characterised. The ion beam milling allows the preparation of cross sections without smearing, scratches, delamination, and other damages. All kinds of materials, from hard inorganic and organic coatings to powders can be handled this way. A perfect polished cross- section can be prepared for analysis in the SEM. The (crystallographic) structure, partitioning, and deformation of crystallographic material can be investigated and its phases determined. For this the FEG-SEM is equipped with EDS (Energy Dispersive Spectral analysis), WDS (Wavelength Dispersive Spectral analysis) and EBSD (Electron Beam Scattering Diffraction).

The VP-SEM (Variable Pressure), (Hitachi S3700) allows a sample size up to 200 mm wide and 500 mm high. And its variable pressure enables testing of volatile components in materials. EDS analysis of  elements with an accuracy of 0.5 wt.-% is possible in this equipment.

For more specific information please see the schedule below and if you have any question feel free to call Environment & Energy Engineering +31 (0)88 515 4661 or email your question to

“We can tailor a lot of our equipment to help you deliver an efficient and cutting edge research project!”

Useful in most ADEM themes

Jaco Saurwalt, is pleased with the ADEM equipment: “With this we have an almost unique combination to prepare and measure materials for research. The larger industry finds us rather easily, but we would like to stimulate PhD students and smaller innovative enterprises to inquire about our possibilities. Because next to the SEMs we have a broader range of facilities! No question is odd and we can do a lot more than people would think. Tell us what you would like to research and we can tell you what possibilities we have or otherwise direct you to a facility that works best for you.”